Anaxagoras Knew the Moon Was No God

Anaxagoras, who lived in the fifth century B.C., was one of the first people in recorded history to recognize that the moon was a rocky, mountainous body. (Eduard Lebiedzki / Public Domain)

An Ancient Greek Philosopher Was Exiled for Claiming the Moon Was a Rock, Not a God

by David Warmflash

Close to the north pole of the moon lies the crater Anaxagoras, named for a Greek philosopher who lived in the fifth century B.C. The eponym is fitting, as Anaxagoras the man was one of the first people in history to suggest the moon was a rocky body, not all too dissimilar from Earth. Streaks of material thrown out during the impact that formed the crater extend 560 miles southward to the rim of another crater, this one named for Plato.

Like Plato, Anaxagoras the scholar did most of his work in Athens, but the similarities between the two men stop there. Influenced strongly by the Pythagoreans, Plato posited a mystical universe based on sacred geometric forms, including perfectly circular orbits. Plato eschewed observation and experimentation, preferring to pursue a pure knowledge he believed was innate in all humans. But Anaxagoras, who died around the time Plato was born, had a knack for astronomy, an area of study that requires careful observational and calculation to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

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  1. In a sense the moon is a goddess. Its interaction with the sun and the earth is what actually created all life on earth, including us, and which sustains our lives every second of every day. These form the true holy trinity that is the real “higher power” of us all. But humans are given to narcissistic, magical thinking and have conjured all sorts of foolish tales that turn impersonal natural phenomena into sentient entities possessing inner emotional lives and human motivations.

    I remember being told by a theist that I thought too much of myself for observing that the evidence he offered for the existence of god was based on inaccurate observation and faulty logic. And yet he is convinced that the almighty creator of the universe takes a personal interest in his mood swings – and that I am the one suffering from grandiosity!

  2. Sun worship, moon worship, etc. all an attempt to influence that which cannot be influenced. The sun IS, the sea IS, the sky IS. All the prayers in the world cannot influence them, but everyone still tries. With different names attached to them, or to an invisible sky being that speaks to only the privileged few. Mark Twain is quoted as saying religion was born when the first con man met the first fool. Nothing has changed

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